Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This week I got to experience a life-changing thing:

I threw the bachelor party for my cousin Doug.

He's an old soul, so it was stripper-free. It might not have been stripper-free had he not requested a golf game followed by a cookout followed by many games of cornhole ("bags" to some people).

For those not familiar with the game, it's like horseshoes but better suited for drinking. The heavy rusted hunks of metal have been replaced with cloth sacks full of corn kernels and sewn shut, and the iron stakes in the ground are replaced with a plywood board with a 6" hole. It's very fun, and you get better at it the more you drink. Scientifically proven. We got very good that night.

Some old friends came out and we had a great reunion. Nothing debaucherous, nothing naughty, just catching up and enjoying each others' company.

This weekend I realized that my cousin - my best friend - is gone. He will forever be part of another half. He will be a fraction of a decision.

And he didn't go out with a bang, he went out with a nice night of togetherness and catching up with some food, some drinks, and some games. This may be the beginning of a new kind of fun: enjoyment for the rarity of reunion. Skip the madness - just enjoy the fact that you all could coordinate your lives to see each other.

I think I didn't pay enough attention when it was easy to get together with my friends. I see that now, and it will change the way I treat my time-tested comrades. After all, this feeling can only get worse...

Monday, October 6, 2008


I didn't think that watching cars crash into each other would make me fall in love, but it did.There on the rusted bleachers among the beer swilling, cotton candy eating, peanut crunching State Fair herd, I realized what I love about my country.

2,000 people descended upon the dirt track at 7:00pm to watch late 80s model cars in the twilight of their twilight be driven to their certain deaths by unqualified drivers dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and motorcycle helmets. The event was free. The prize for each of three heats was $50.

We all watched with pounding hearts and sporadic cheers as the cars raced backwards toward each other and met with a CRASH! CRUNCH! POP! (As a now-seasoned demolition derby fan, I should tell you that it is much smarter to charge into another car while driving in reverse. After all, if the contest is for the last car standing, why would you shove the front of your car - containing the engine - into another? It's a death sentence).

Our country houses the truest demonstrations of the basic, carnal nature of the human condition. How different is the dirt track at the State Fair from the Roman Coliseum? (Certainly more rules and regulations at the track. That, and they had a flatbed trailer, fire fighters, and an ambulance. I bet that would've been nice for the gladiators and chariots back in the day...) And how different were the neighborhood bike trails or the living room wrestling matches of my youth from the State Fair track?

The country may be in financial disarray, but I'm not worried. Well, maybe a little - but not AS worried as I'd be if the country suddenly didn't think this stuff was fun or exciting, or if the State Fair all of a sudden stopped putting events like this on.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Chicken House...

My goodness! I really wish the whole class could have come to the Gospel Chicken House. In fact, I plan to lobby for it this week. The experience was nothing short of fantastic. To tell the quick story...

I drove there with Sriram, my Indian friend (who is Hindu). As we pulled into the driveway (this was on an old chicken farm, and the event was to take place in a former chicken house now renovated to be a place of musical gospel worship). It was as country and simple as could be, and the large farm yard was packed with cars - at least 100. We showed up at sunset about 10 minutes before the service was about to start. When we entered, though, the music was already playing and people were having a good time.

Lots of eyes on us as we entered - wow; an Indian man and his 6'4" Caucasian friend.

Average age: 65
Ethnicity: 99% Caucasian
Politics: Conservative (LOTS of McCain/Palin bumper stickers)
Sensibility: 100% community-oriented, polite, and eager to share

We, as newcomers, were asked to introduce ourselves on the microphone in front of the congregation. Sriram - with his uniqueness - stole the show. Everyone was so eager to welcome someone from another culture into their event (especially since he revealed that he was there for a school assignment - which was met with a roar of laughter). "Honey, you ain't got nothin' but culture here. Welcome to the Chicken House!"

We had a great time watching the 5-piece house band belt out the slow-time, often 3/4 or 6/8 gospel tunes complete with 3, 4, and 5-part harmonies. The crowd knew the words to the songs - all by heart, no hymnals, no fliers - all by heart. It was as though they all had been singing these songs for decades; and it's entirely likely that they did.

The Gospel Chicken House touts itself as "The longest weekly gospel music sing in the nation." Their history claims a 34-year long tradition (which I find strangely short for the nation's longest). Regardless, it seemed like a deep, close family. It actually reminded me of some aspects of my own family...

We are not especially religious - certainly not gospel singers - and we certainly don't congregate in chicken houses. We do, however, observe many family traditions that we hold close to our hearts. We honor tradition, longevity, and the specialness of the togetherness we enjoy. We've had 38 years of Terre Haute, IN family reunions followed by a trip to the Indinapolis 500 (turn, 4, Northwest Vista section 2, rows n and p, seats 1-6). Also, we have 37 years of family vacationing at Miller's Shorewood vista resort in the North Woods of Rhinelander, Wisconsin (compare to Kellerman's from Dirty Dancing, only crappier). Bottom line: we do tradition. We do sharing and closeness.

The Gospel Chicken House felt like a bizarro version of my family world. Swap the chicken house for the Terre Haute farm house, trade the gospel tunes for the high pitched whine of Indy cars and the roar of 500,000 fans. The same force is working on both groups - love and togetherness. Ask any Indy race fan - it's not about cars like NASCAR is; it's about being together, back home again in Indiana. If you can't grasp this, go to the race one year. Just Indy. No other race is the same. But I digress...

Go to the Chicken House - http://www.gospelchickenhouse.org - regardless of your religious opinions, it will make a memory that you will never forget. They also might be the nicest people around. They'll welcome you to the group and involve you in the fun. Same goes for my family. Feel free to take a trip to Terre Haute and see us, too.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Artwalk like an Egyptian

I attended my first Friday Artwalk series this week, and I constantly had to dry my eyes.

Admittedly, as tropical storm Hanna was raging all over the event, the eye-drying was mainly due to the rain on my face. However, had it not been raining I may have had a glimmer or two of misty-eyed appreciation for the beauty and culture that I observed. Strangely ebough, it had little to do with the art.

Richmond is a very art-centric city - at least, that's what I had heard. I always noticed the tattooed messy-haired kids walking, biking, and moped-ing around this city, and I can only imagine that many of them were the minions of art that made the city tick so. But that was more of a shallow, closed-minded opinion than an observation or hypothesis. This week at the art walk, I got to see what Richmond's artsyness is really all about.

The people walking up and down Broad street - clad in galoshes and umbrellas - were not young hipsters in ripped jeans (per se) and they were not snobbish artists in funny hats and designer clothes looking woefully at "Richmond's tiny art". No no - these were appreciators, fans, and most importantly interested individuals. They were there for the art itself (and perhaps the drinking while walking thing, which I'm still not sure was part of the program). Some of them were surely artists themselves, but others were clearly just appreciators of the scene. That's what makes Richmond so great - it's people appreciate the art that is coming from their city.

I'll admit - I'm not too familiar with other cities (being a VA boy all my life), but I do feel that Richmonders' treatment of art and the creative scene is unusually alive, and i saw that out in full force (during full gale force winds) at the Art Walk. I only hope that the series continues into the fall - I'm a late joiner, and I want to get my art fill.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I find it interesting that hurricanes are here and gone so quickly. They are all the rage on every news and weather program and then in a few days their memory is all but gone. That is, unless they do some major damage - and even then their legacy only lasts as long as the damage or the actual memory of the carnage. If damage were medals the hurricanes would be like Olympic athletes. Sad, but true - we care when they're there, don't when they're not.

Happy hurricane season, everyone. Don't forget the little ones. Tropical storms are people, too.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

I've resisted long enough.

Because of forces beyond my control I am now a contributing member of blog society. Should you like to learn what is inside my head at the time of last blog, feel free to read and/or comment.

I'm excited. I will try and be the least selfish blogger there ever was.

I will also try to keep the word "I" out of my blogs from here on out. Beginning now - ready...go!